Are There Really Cruelty-Free Eggs?
Below are some quick facts, resources, and an article shedding light on the cruelties inherent in egg production and consumption.
Even on small farms, for every egg-laying female hen, approximately one male chick is killed as a newborn by suffocation, gassing, maceration, or electrocution, because he is considered a “useless by-product” who can’t lay eggs or grow large enough for meat.
In the U.S. alone, more than 260 million male chicks are killed in the egg industry every year… that’s around 30,000 newborn chicks killed every hour just for eggs.
Egg labels are often intentionally deceiving. There are no government-regulated or -enforced standards for “free-range” egg production. “Cage-free” only means that hens are not kept in cages.
But more than 20,000 birds can be severely confined in a windowless, warehouse-style shed and still have their eggs sold under “free-range” or “cage-free” labels.
Most eggs are not even sold under humane pretexts. These conventionally-raised, factory-farmed eggs come from birds who are kept in wire battery cages stacked by the thousands on top of each other inside warehouses without fresh air or sunlight.
The birds are crammed so tightly, they can not even spread their wings. Conditions on egg farms are so miserable that many consider eggs the cruelest animal product of all.
Newborn chicks typically have 1/3 to 2/3 of their extremely sensitive beaks seared off without pain reliever. Debeaking is standard practice in the egg industry, including on most cage-free and free-range egg farms.
A chicken’s beak is the sensory equivalent of a human fingertip — loaded with blood vessels, pain receptors, and free nerve endings that facilitate food detection in the wild.
Like the meat and dairy industries, the egg industry is a slaughter industry.
While their lifespan is eight to ten years, hens used for eggs are generally killed at 12 to 18 months when their egg production declines.
They are either slaughtered for their meat—being paralyzed by electric shock and having their throats slit—or they are disposed of by being gassed or thrown alive onto dead piles.
1. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Poultry Extension, Small and Backyard Flocks: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 2/11/2014 from http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/FAQ.html
2. “Unlike most domestic hens, who have been selectively bred to lay eggs year-round, wild fowl breed and lay primarily in spring. The Red Jungle Fowl lays 10-15 eggs per year, and the average size of each brood is 4-6 chicks.” Humane Society of the United States, About Chickens. Retrieved 2/11/2014 from http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/about_chickens.pdf
3. Encyclopedia of Life, About Chickens. Retrieved 2/11/2014 from http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/about_chickens.pdf
4. An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals In the Egg Industry: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_egg.pdf
5. Rodriguez, Sheila. “The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels,” Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law, 51 (2011).